Prepare for More Safety Inspections

A recently launched enforcement program targets chemical facilities.

By Michael J. Hazzan and Martin R. Rose, AcuTech Consulting Group

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In June 2007, as a response to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's report on the explosion at BP's Texas City refinery and in response to statistics that show a high rate of fatalities and serious injuries in the refining industry, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Directive CPL 03-00-004, "Petroleum Refinery Process Safety Management National Emphasis Program [NEP]." OSHA has now finished, or soon will, inspections of all 81 petroleum refineries under federal jurisdiction. These evaluations emphasize process safety management (PSM) by using a set of specifically targeted questions, many of which reflect issues surrounding the Texas City accident.

On July 27, 2009, OSHA published Directive 09-06 (CPL 02), "PSM Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program," to extend the Refinery NEP program to chemical industry facilities covered by the PSM Standard (see sidebar). OSHA estimates the Chemical NEP program could run eight years. As with the Refinery NEP, OSHA inspectors likely will arrive unannounced at chemical plants.

On July 8, 2010, OSHA issued Directive 10-05 (CPL 02), which replaces the pilot program directive that expired on July 27, 2010. This directive extends the pilot program until September 30, 2010 and encourages State Plan adoption as well for those states that aren't under the federal OSHA.

OSHA is implementing the Chemical NEP on a pilot basis in OSHA Region I (ME, VT, CT, RI, NH, MA), Region VII (KS, NE, IA, MO) and Region X (ID, WA, OR, AK) through September 30, 2010. Unprogrammed inspections in response to alleged hazardous working conditions or actual incidents can happen in all OSHA regions and will occur regardless of whether a plant takes part in a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). More than 15,000 facilities nationwide could face inspections.

OSHA indicates NEP inspections will target certain facilities. It has compiled a list from the approximately 8,000 facilities that have submitted Program 3 Risk Management Plans (RMP) to EPA, facilities that have a NAICS code for manufacturing explosives and facilities from the OSHA IMIS database that have previous PSM-related citations, as well as from local knowledge of industry by OSHA area office personnel.

The Refinery NEP featured a publicly available static list of inspection questions in addition to a dynamic list of questions restricted to OSHA personnel. In contrast, the Chemical NEP will use a dynamic list of questions available only to OSHA personnel. No two facilities are apt to be audited with exactly the same set of questions because only a portion of the dynamic questions will be used. Given the timing of the Refinery and Chemical NEPs, the dynamic Chemical NEP question list likely will include those from the static and dynamic Refinery NEP lists, edited to remove or modify questions that are specific only to oil refineries.

Chemical NEP inspections probably will be more focused and, presumably, briefer than refinery ones. Like in the Refinery NEP, inspections will concentrate more on the implementation of the PSM program, or the lack of it, than on the mere existence of a documented program. In other words, OSHA will examine the program for evidence of a "Say what you do, and do what you say" viewpoint rather than just assessing written policies and procedures for compliance.

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